We’ve all heard stories about the guy who stops drinking soda and quickly drops 10 pounds in a few months. Although the results may seem too good to be true, small lifestyle changes can result in big-time fat loss.
When it comes to weight loss, it doesn’t have to hurt for it to work. Let’s say you drink two bottles of soda a day. At roughly 240 calories each, you’ll cut 3,360 calories a week just by switching your soft drink for water. That means you’ll lose almost a pound, which is 3,500 calories, just by omitting soft drinks.
Even if you don’t drink soda, there are dozens of simple, everyday habits you can follow to lose weight. In fact, Andy Yurechko, MS, RD, of Augusta University Medical Center in Georgia, believes the most successful dieters avoid fads and focus on long-term sustainable practices.
“A healthier type of diet is something you can do every day of your life,” he says. So it helps to make it easy to do. That’s exactly what these small changes are—healthy tweaks you can make to your everyday routine that have the bonus of helping you lose weight and get rid of your belly. Overachievers, take note: The point isn’t to do everything on this list at once. Start anywhere, and add the next small step when you’re ready.
1. Have a clear goal. It should be one that anyone in the world can measure and understand. Write out your goal and keep it posted somewhere as a reminder when you want to give up. If you have a set amount of weight you’d like to lose, step on the scale before you start. Then, weigh yourself every single day. Studies show daily weigh-ins enhance weight loss efforts. But don’t live and die by the number. And remember a scale doesn’t decipher between fat and lean body mass–but it can help keep things “in check.”
2. Drink the right fluids. First, everyone should drink plenty of water—your body needs it to run properly. And there’s a bonus in doing that for people who are aiming to lose weight. Dr. Brenda Davy and her team from Virginia Tech University found that giving people 2 cups of water before each meal resulted in greater weight loss after 12 weeks. The reason is pretty simple: It helps fill you up so you eat less.
If plain water just doesn’t appeal to you, try adding fresh fruit to it, or sip on tea. Research indicates that drinking tea—black, green, or white—is also associated with lower BMIs and less body fat.
3. Decrease/eliminate processed carbs and junk food. They do nothing for you outside of creating a favorable environment for gaining fat, including belly fat. If you have trouble managing particular treats—maybe it’s chips, maybe it’s cookies, maybe it’s peanut butter—keep them out of your home or office cabinets. It’s not about willpower; it’s about being realistic. Instead, buy healthy snacks—like jerky—for your glove compartment or desk drawer so you’re prepared at all times.
4. Eat more produce. Fruits and vegetables fill you up, provide plenty of fiber and have few calories. If you have trouble sneaking in the veggies, start every meal with a salad. Salad provides bulk to help fill you up so that you eat less calories overall. Or try this hack to get a day’s worth of healthy greens in 14 minutes. No smoothie required.
Although some people fear fructose, fruit will not make you gain weight, and that includes the so-called “high sugar” fruits like bananas and melons.
5. Lift weights. Develop an exercise plan that includes heavy weights. Build more muscle, burn more calories. Make sure to cut down on rest time between sets. This keeps your heart rate elevated, causing an increase in calories burned. Use these tips to lift heavy the smart way.
6. Do intervals. Study after study continues to show intervals are more effective and time efficient than longer activity performed at a lower intensity. This super-simple partner interval workout gets the job done quickly.
7. Do full body exercises. Your exercise plan—whether you’re aiming to lose weight or not—shouldn’t just focus on one area of your body. Instead, incorporate exercises that use your whole body. Think: squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, and pushups. You’ll get more bang for your buck out of each workout. If you have trouble hitting the gym after work, wakeup early to exercise.
8. Track your food. There’s no better way to track what you’re putting in your mouth. Use a free app, like MyFitnessPal, which makes it easy to log from anywhere. Chances are you’re eating more than you think, which makes it a good idea to weigh food, too. This ensures your tracking is precise and that you’re not incorrectly estimating calories in your food journal.
9. Eat breakfast. A review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that those who eat breakfast are more successful with long-term weight maintenance. Other research has shown the same for weight loss. Grab Greek yogurt, a piece of fruit and handful of nuts, make a smoothie, down some hard-boiled eggs or scramble them. It doesn’t have to be fancy. (But may we point out the absolute best way to make scrambled eggs? It’s also the easiest.)
10. Eat the bulk of your meals in the A.M. Then eat progressively less throughout the day. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that eating most of your calories earlier in the day positively influences weight changes.
11. To burn more calories, stay active. This means not sitting in front of a computer, TV, phone, etc all day. Stand and you’ll burn more and be more productive. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help burn more calories, too. This won’t make or break success, but every little bit helps when it comes to physical activity.
12. Don’t grocery shop hungry. If you do, you’ll buy everything in the store instead of sticking to your list. And most of the time, the foods you buy when hungry will be the kinds that sabotage your weight loss efforts and won’t help you get rid of your belly.
13. Replace side dishes with steamed veggies. Restaurants will often allow you to substitute the fries or chips with steamed veggies. All you have to do is ask.
14. Bake, don’t fry. You’ll save calories and lower your risk of heart disease. Or try an air fryer—you can even make chicken in it. You can also use the fat-burner in your backyard: the grill, which offers plenty of flavor without the need for frying.
15. Laugh often. A study presented at the European Congress on Obesity found those who laughed hard for approximately 10 to15 minutes each day burned an additional 10 to 40 calories/day. Multiply that by 365 and those calories can add up!
16. Eat Less. This means opting for a small side of fries instead of large. Avoid buffets and try to leaving something on your plate atthe end of the meal. When dining out, split a meal with your dinner companion and skip dessert. Treat cakes, pies and cookies as occasional treats.
17. Don’t socialize around the food tables at parties. You’re more likely to munch mindlessly, even though you may not be hungry.
18. If you have a dog, take him for a walk. It’s better for both him and you than just letting him out the back. (Bonus: He’ll love you even more!) If you don’t have a pet, offer to walk a neighbor’s dog. Make friends; lose weight.
19. Decrease your food intake by 100 calories per day. Theoretically this translates to losing nearly 1 pound per month (1 lb = 3500 calories)—with hardly any effort. Using smaller plates and bowls can help you achieve this, since it makes less food seems like more. Similarly, eating slower can cut out extra calories since it takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes for your stomach to sense it’s full.
20. When possible, walk or bike to do your errands. You’ll get fresh air, burn a few calories and get your heart rate up. Buy a pedometer and aim for at least 10,000 steps each day.
21. Plan ahead. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
22. Take “before” pictures. You’ll be amazed at the progress you’ve made when you revisit the photos later.
23. Find active friends. If your friends prefer pizza, wings, nachos and beer on a regular basis, find ones who are like-minded and want to be healthy. Research has suggested that friends enhance (or can hurt) success. Join a running club or other group focused around physical activity.
24. Put yourself first. Many people put everyone else ahead of themselves and let their health fall by the side. Put yourself on your agenda.
25. Remember: It’s not all or nothing. If you fall off the bandwagon, jump right back on. Don’t let yourself continue to fall until all weight loss progress has been lost.
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Melissa Matthews is the health writer at MensHealth.com and has written for Newsweek, Men’s Fitness, Inc.